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How to Prepare & Recover from Disasters

Tuesday, September 19th, 2017

Part 3 of a 3-part Series

As teachers, educators and administrators across the country welcome students to a new academic year, we want to help ensure your child starts 2017-2018 off right. School safety is of paramount importance since children spend more hours at school than anywhere besides their own homes. Facing myriad obstacles, such as transportation challenges, cyber bullying and peer pressure, and handling emergencies and disasters, students need to proactively take steps to #BeSafe.

The first entry of our three-part series about back-to-school safety focused on how to keep your child safe on the way to and from school. The second blog post focused on how to be safe while at school, relative to bullying. In the final post, we will cover the topic of how to be safe at school before, during and after emergencies or disasters. 

In an ironic twist, Hurricanes Harvey and Irma severely impacted the Gulf Coast, Florida and parts of the Caribbean during National Preparedness Month (NPM), whose theme is “Disasters Don’t Plan Ahead. You Can.” Projected to be the most expensive natural disasters of all time, the two storms are projected to cause losses in excess of $290 billion.

While some natural disasters are predictable, giving schools leeway to cancel classes and residents ample warning to evacuate, others can happen unexpectedly or rapidly change, suddenly putting students in danger. The first step to take in preparing for emergencies is to assess the types of natural or man-made disaster risks most likely to occur in your region:

  • Earthquakes
  • Extreme heat
  • Flooding
  • Hurricanes and tornadoes
  • Landslides and debris flow
  • Thunderstorms and lightning
  • Wildfires or structural fires
  • Winter storms and extreme cold

The sudden and unexpected nature of disasters means that you could be away from your child during a disaster. Without proper planning, this is a frightening prospect. Nevertheless, while there’s no substitute for being with your children when a disaster strikes, there are ways to lessen associated fears of what may happen if an emergency occurs while your student is at school:

  • Familiarize yourself with your district’s emergency preparedness plans. In fact, get involved in the planning process so you have input about campus procedures.
  • Find out your community’s risk and response plans. Involve your student. Kids like being included in the process, for their own safety and sense of empowerment.
  • Hold a meeting to discuss your family’s communications plan.
  • For younger students, roleplay what to do during a disaster.
  • After you’ve learned about the school’s and community’s emergency response plans, talk to your child about them, reminding your student about the importance of actively listening to teachers and administrators during emergencies.
  • Use age-appropriate preparedness materials to explain emergency procedures to your child. These could include engaging activities and easy action steps that your students will find both fun, informative and effective.
  • Work together to build an emergency kit. For college-aged students, as you plan for their practical needs during their months away from home, be sure to include some items that will come in handy in an emergency in addition to climate-appropriate clothing, dorm supplies, medications and toiletries. Whether it’s as simple as a power outage or as challenging as a storm like Hurricane Harvey or Tropical Storm Irma, being prepared can help your college student remain safe and deal calmly with the situation, while helping other classmates to do the same.
  • Check the district or college website to see if emergency plans are posted. If not, call administrators to request a copy of the plan and confirm that your student is registered with the emergency notification system.
  • The Allied Universal Fire Life Safety Training Program now features disaster training for students in on-campus housing.
  • Ready-made disaster kits designed for students can be ordered from the American Red Cross at redcrossstore.org. Information on compiling your own disaster readiness kit is available on the web at www.fema.gov.

About the Allied Universal Fire Life Safety Training System

Safety is important for everyone all year round, not just while at school. A convenient and affordable way to make sure on-campus students or high-rise occupants are prepared for disasters and emergencies of virtually every kind is to subscribe to the Allied Universal Fire Life Safety Training System, which has been designed to help improve and save lives. For more information about the best system out there, or to subscribe, click here.

How to Prepare for Extreme Weather

Tuesday, December 6th, 2016

Car towingThe Global Climate Risk Index 2017 analyzes the extent to which countries have been affected by the impact of weather-related loss. This year’s index confirms that, although less developed countries are generally more likely to be devastated by weather than industrialized nations, even areas that are typically immune from such risk would do well to prepare. Regardless of where you stand on the issue of climate change, experts agree that the risk of extreme weather events threatens the entire world. And wherever it strikes, extreme weather profoundly impacts facilities, operations and personnel—financially, emotionally and physically.

So how should you prepare for a weather-related disaster?

  1. Don’t wait until the threat is imminent. Instead, proactively plan and stock supplies and run drills to make sure your family, friends, staff and/or building occupants are set to “weather the storm.”
  1. Familiarize yourself with the threats that are most likely to strike your region. If you aren’t sure, check the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Storm Prediction Center to find out about your geographic risks.
  2. Take specific steps to prepare for each and every potential weather-related emergency. Here are a few specific tips the handle some of the most common extreme weather emergencies:Heavy rain and flood concept with house under water 3d illustration.

Extreme cold, sleet and snow

  • Dress in layers to keep warm and dry.
  • Limit your exposure to the cold.
  • If you plan to use a space heater or fireplace, keep clothes, drapes and other flammables away from all heating sources. Turn them off before leaving a building or going to sleep.
  • If you must go outside, watch for signs of hypothermia, including uncontrollable shivering, weak pulse, disorientation, incoherence and drowsiness, and frostbite, skin discoloration and numbness.
  • Don’t overexert yourself. When shoveling snow or even walking in deep snow, avoid straining to prevent over exertion or a heart attack. 

Thunder and Lightning

The sound produced by high temperature bursts of lightning, thunder rapidly expands surrounding air, resulting in a sonic boom.

  • If you are inside, steer clear of exterior windows.
  • If you are outside, avoid isolated tall trees.
  • Wherever you are, seek inside shelter immediately.
  • Within a building, avoid using electricity, which contains conductive elements. 

Tornado On The Business Road - Dramatic Weather On CityTornadoes

  • Designate a safe room to shelter in place during the storm.
  • Practice tornado drills at home and in the office.
  • Remove dead or diseased trees near buildings.
  • If you are in your car, drive to a safe shelter location. Or, if that is not possible, stay in the vehicle, buckle your seatbelt, and place your head between your knees.
  • The CDC offers tips for safety after a tornado, including watching for downed power lines, and avoiding the use of gas-powered generators or heaters inside a building.
  • Allied Universal Training System subscribers have access to a tornado module, available at no extra charge.

Safely managing extreme weather events requires planning and teamwork with building occupants and staff. Remember that safety is a daily priority for everyone, regardless of whether the disaster you face is weather related. A convenient and affordable way to make sure you are prepared for disasters and emergencies of virtually every kind is to subscribe to the Allied Universal Training System by Universal Fire/Life Safety Services, which has been designed to help improve and save lives. For more information about the best system out there, or to subscribe, click here.

Cleaning Tactics Following a Flood

Tuesday, September 13th, 2016

business man looking at the city underwaterAccording to the National Weather Service, the recent historic flooding in Louisiana was a result of torrential rains that dropped three times as much water as what fell relative to Hurricane Katrina. When storms like this occur, dangerous floodwaters can lead to immediate loss of life. What’s more, the aftermath is often greater still.

In Baton Rouge, cleanup crews are moving street-by-street to pick up flood-related debris.  Officials report that teams gathered 12,000 cubic yards of refuse in a single day. And this figure only reflects refuse on the street. Massive cleanup efforts are still underway, with sanitation companies repairing, cleaning and demolishing homes which were devastated by the flood. Rescue Service assorted debris

Floodwaters destroy homes simply because most household items do not do well under water:

  • When saturated, wood floors swell.
  • Window casings can quickly rot and shift, breaking windows.
  • Electronic components can short, posing electrical fire risk.
  • Drywall absorbs water readily, and should be removed before mold grows.
  • Extreme flooding within a structure can cause a home to shift, stressing the foundation.

 

Underground ParkingImportant Note for Property Managers and Building Owners: Prior to a flood, make sure important records and operating equipment are not located in underground basements or parking garages, as these are typically the first areas to flood. 


Mold Removal after a Flood

Mold is a major concern for homeowners and disaster relief agencies following floods. Even if the variety of mold that grows is not toxic, the side effects of exposure can produce serious health issues – such as hives, bloody noses and migraines. So, regardless of the type of mold that grows following a flood, it’s important to seek out an experienced remediation firm. Avoid scammers who prey on flood victims, demanding payment in full, upfront, for mold remediation that will never be provided. Mold removal requires special chemicals, breathing masks and equipment; so leave the job to professionals.

Steps a pro will take to prevent and remove mold growth following a flood:

  • Replace carpeting, drapes, and pads that were exposed to water. Mold spores can remain in carpets even after thorough drying.
  • Remove drywall to properly sanitize walls.
  • Discard affected materials to remove mold spores.
  • Open windows and utilize masks rated N-95 or higher to prevent respiratory illness.
  • Wash affected areas with special detergent.
  • Use ammonia to kill mold spores, being careful not to mix bleach and ammonia-containing cleaners.
  • Dry the entire home using dehumidifiers, heat-producing devices, and high-speed fans.
  • Inspect areas in walls and behind wall coverings.
  • Use infrared cameras to detect and target moisture.

In some cases, where moisture penetration is pronounced, insurance providers could deem the dwelling a total loss. Talk to a mold remediation specialist, or a facility services company such as Universal Building Maintenance, which is part of Allied Universal,  and your insurance provider about the severity of conditions affecting your home.

Remember that safety is a daily priority. Flooding is not only extremely dangerous while it is occurring, but could also lead to a long and potentially toxic cleanup process. Homeowners and business owners should understand the flooding risk inherent in their buildings, review flood insurance coverage to make sure it is sufficient, and plan to quickly remediate flood damage in the event it occurs. A convenient and affordable way to make sure you are prepared for disasters and emergencies of virtually every kind is to subscribe to the Allied Universal Training System by Universal Fire/Life Safety Services, which has been designed to help improve and save lives. For more information about the best system out there, or to subscribe, click here.

How to Avoid Disaster-Related Fraud

Monday, July 25th, 2016

Deception Concept - Disguise Between Shark And GoldfishWhen disasters such as earthquakes or floods strike the United States, an outpouring of financial and emotional support pours in for the victims. Unfortunately, some people prey upon this type of generosity by defrauding disaster victims, donors, and the government. Disaster-related fraud takes several forms, from bogus websites luring people to make donations to fake construction contractors who extract money from vulnerable homeowners.

Another example occurs when merchants hike the prices of supplies that are in high demand by disaster victims. For example, during the recent West Virginia flooding, some merchants, such as local hotels and restaurants, were raising rates for bottled water and toiletries in order to cruelly capitalize on short-term demand.

Avoid Fraudulent Donation Workers and Sites

Some unscrupulous individuals pose as workers for charitable organizations, saying that they  are “collecting donations” after a disaster. They will push people to give cash donations which are untraceable and cannot be rescinded. To protect yourself, always ask for identification from volunteers seeking donations, and to be 100% sure of their affiliation,  donate directly through the charity’s main website.

After Hurricane Katrina, several people were convicted of impersonating Red Cross workers and dozens of fraudulent donation websites were shut down by authorities.

Make note of these red flags to help you spot fake donation sites:

  • 100% to victims promise! Genuine charities have overhead, so they can’t possibly give 100% of the donations they collect directly to victims.
  • Site and email misspellings and grammar errors. Compare each website with the official website for the charity. And before inquiring on the satellite site, do a search for the email address on the main charity’s website. After Katrina, unscrupulous scammers purchased the domain name @redcross.org and set up an email account called support2@redcross.org, a spoofed Red Cross email address which took people to a fraudulent website for “donations.”Swiss cross red flag
  • Check the site’s “contact us” information. Legitimate charities will provide an address, phone, email and, and in many cases,chat support to connect with potential donors.
  • Google to identify fake charities. If an organization’s name sounds unfamiliar, search for it along with the word “scam” to find out if anyone has written news stories or filed complaints with the Better Business Bureau.

Spotting Contractor and Vendor Fraud

Contractor fraud involves someone posing as a qualified contractor. This person will, for example, contact homeowners after a flood and tell them they can repair wood floors or install carpeting on the cheap. Then, they collect deposits from multiple homeowners under the guise of doing work, but simply take the money and run.

During Hurricane Sandy, which devastated areas of New Jersey, millions of dollars in taxpayer-funded relief money was fraudulently secured. Some homeowners even pulled from savings or retirement accounts in order to pay contractors, thinking their expenses would be reimbursed. Unscrupulous contractors took advantage of these homeowners and were later indicted on federal charges. The problem prompted the Department of Community Affairs for New Jersey to create a website that educates residents about identifying and preventing contractor-related fraud.

Red Flags for spotting and preventing contractor fraud following disaster:Scam Alert on Green Direction Arrow Sign.

  • The contractor wants a large upfront payment. Contractors can ask for a portion of the funds upfront, but be very wary of anyone who asks for more than 30%.
  • Poor Reviews or lack of listing on the Better Business Bureau website. Also, check sites, such as Yelp and Angie’s List.
  • Request payment by cash or check. Use a credit card when putting down a deposit, since most credit card companies offer fraud protection.
  • Rushing you into an agreement. If a contractor is pushy or demanding and/or fails to offer a detailed work plan, then they could be running a scam.
  • Address is out of the area. If the contractor claims to be well-known in the area, make a few hours to follow up on his or her referrals. Many scam artists come into an area from out-of-state to prey on homeowners affected by disasters and then flee the scene.
  • Exceptionally low bids. An overeager contractor with a “too good to be true” quote is a warning sign. Even if a low-bid is legitimate, if the contractor is willing to work at such a deeply discounted rate, he or she could have intentionally or carelessly made mistakes when providing the estimate. Many times, these contractors go back to the homeowner to ask for more money when they run out of funds.Man in jeans with empty pocket

Remember that safety is a daily priority. And one of the items you should be careful to safeguard is your money! A convenient and affordable way to make sure you are prepared for disasters and emergencies of virtually every kind is to subscribe to the Allied Universal Training System by Universal Fire/Life Safety Services, which has been designed to help improve and save lives. For more information about the best system out there, or to subscribe, click here.

El Niño Weather Risks for 2016

Tuesday, January 12th, 2016

El nino conceptThe early January storms in Southern California brought not only rain and wind, but also a rare tornado warning for Los Angeles and San Diego. While the warnings didn’t pan out, meteorologists agree that 2016 will bring an increased chance of storms of many types across the entire country. Thanks to El Niño, emergency management professionals across the country are gearing up for what may be a banner year for weather. In fact, citing a worrying El Niño storm pattern this winter that could rival flooding in 1997 and 1998, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has prepared a 66-page Severe El Niño Disaster Response Plan targeted to milder climates such as California and other western states.

What exactly is El Niño? Technically, it is the warm phase of the El Niño Southern Oscillation (commonly called ENSO). In simple terms, bands of warmer ocean water develop near the equator. This abnormally warm ocean water then alters the atmospheric conditions to produce unpredictable weather events. Here are some tips for handling several potential facets of El Niño weather and tips for preparing your building for severe weather.

Perform Storm Water Inspections of Your Properties

Water flow from drainpipeConduct a property walk-through to spot water drainage problems that could be aggravated by El Niño storms. While on the walkthrough:

  • Check drainpipes and other piping used to channel rainwater. Be sure these are free of debris to potentially handle large quantities of water. Review storm patterns and associated damage from previous years to identify potential problem areas.
  • If your building has water pumps, ensure they remain in good working condition. Remove debris from strainers.
  • If storm drains are severely backed up, you may need to hire a professional who has tools such as cameras to quickly identify and solve the problem.
  • Test the drainage system for leaks. This is especially important in areas that house electrical equipment.
  • Does your building have ground-level storage or parking areas? Check the grading to identify areas which may be susceptible to flooding. Sandbags and other measures can help channel water flow away from high traffic areas.

Managing Snowfall

Natural Disaster Warning Signs, Family Running, Caution, Danger, Hazard Symbol SetThe Weather Channel’s Winter Storm Central details the typical effects of El Niño and La Nina relative to snow patterns. The hope is that the subtropical or southern-branch jet stream, typically turbo-charged during strong El Niño, will deliver long-awaited relief for at least some in the West. However, no one can equivocally guarantee that the drought will end even if El Niño performs as expected. The good news is that, so far this year, California is already experiencing heavier snowfall than normal, with several feet reported.

How to Handle Snow:

  • Use chains. Necessary even if you have a four-wheel drive vehicle, snow chains provide the traction necessary to escape snow-packed surfaces, though they remain relatively useless for traversing slick ice. Practice putting chains on your car in the comfort of your driveway instead of opening the package for the first time while you are stranded at the side of the road during a blizzard.
  • Keep exhaust pipes clear. If the pipe is blocked while the car is running, shovel an area around it for the gases to escape, instead of allowing them to filter back into the car.
  • Work with other motorists. If you are stranded during a snowstorm, make contact with other people so you can pool resources such as food, water, charged devices, and other items from your emergency supply kit.
  • Stay with the vehicle. Unless you have veered off the road, stay with the car as it will provide a certain degree of shelter.

Prepping your Building

Rain, tornadoes, and snow from El Niño could lead to a wide range of disaster threats this year. Here are some tips to help you (and building occupants) survive and resume normal operations as quickly as possible:

  • Use backup generators to provide a source of electricity to run sump pumps and to provide essential services to stranded occupants.
  • If applicable, paint your building (especially wood trim) with treated paint, which will repel water.
  • Conduct flood-proofing of your building, including the use of sandbags, attention to gutters, altering rooflines, and other fixes. FEMA has an extension section devoted to flood-proofing.

The effect of El Niño are global, with NASA predicting “weather chaos.” A theme of El Niño weather events is their unpredictability, with unusually-timed floods, blizzards, and the potential for tornadoes in unexpected places. Planning for the unexpected is a requirement for building and safety managers, so follow best practices to protect lives and property in 2016.

Remember that safety is a daily priority, so be sure to think safety all of the time. A convenient and affordable way to make sure you are prepared for disasters and emergencies of virtually every kind is to subscribe to the Allied Universal Training System by Universal Fire/Life Safety Services, which has been designed to help improve and save lives. For more information about the best system out there, or to subscribe, click here.

How to Prepare for Hurricane Season

Wednesday, May 28th, 2014

Hurricanes 5-282In light of the fact that Hurricane Amanda is gaining strength off the Pacific coast, and in honor of hurricane preparedness week, we wanted to take the opportunity to encourage our readers and subscribers to prepare for hurricane season. A hurricane is a type of tropical cyclone or severe tropical storm that forms in the southern Atlantic Ocean, Caribbean Sea, Gulf of Mexico, and in the eastern Pacific Ocean. A typical cyclone is accompanied by thunderstorms, and in the Northern Hemisphere, a counterclockwise circulation of winds near the earth’s surface.

Here are a few facts about hurricanes:

  • All Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico coastal areas are subject to hurricanes.
  • Parts of the Southwest United States and the Pacific Coast also experience heavy rains and floods each year from hurricanes spawned off Mexico.
  • The Atlantic hurricane season lasts from June to November, with the peak season from mid-August to late October.
  • The Eastern Pacific hurricane season begins May 15 and ends November 30.
  • Hurricanes can cause catastrophic damage to coastlines and several hundred miles inland.
  • Hurricane can produce winds exceeding 155 miles per hour as well as tornadoes and micro-bursts.
  • Hurricanes can create storm surges along the coast and cause extensive damage from heavy rainfall.
  • Floods and flying debris from the excessive winds are often the deadly and destructive results of these weather events.
  • Slow moving hurricanes traveling into mountainous regions tend to produce especially heavy rain.
  • Excessive rain can trigger landslides or mud slides.
  • Flash flooding can occur due to intense rainfall.

 

hurricane 5-28

So how are you supposed to prepare for a hurricane?

  • Build an emergency kit and make a family communications plan.
  • Know your surroundings.
  • Learn the elevation level of your property and whether the land is flood-prone.
  • Identify levees and dams in your area and determine whether they pose a hazard to you.
  • Learn community hurricane evacuation routes and how to find higher ground. Determine where you would go and how you would get there if you needed to evacuate.
  • Make plans to secure your property.hur
  • Cover the windows in your home.
  • To reduce roof damage, install straps or additional clips to securely fasten your roof to the frame structure.
  • Make sure trees and shrubs around your home are well trimmed so they are more wind resistant.
  • Clear loose and clogged rain gutters and downspouts.
  • Reinforce your garage doors; if wind enters a garage it can cause dangerous and expensive structural damage.
  • Plan to bring in all outdoor furniture, decorations, garbage cans and anything else that is not tied down.
  • Determine how and where to secure your boat.
  • Install a generator for emergencies.
  • If in a high-rise building, when high winds are present, be prepared to take shelter on a lower floor because wind conditions increase with height.
  • Consider building a safe room.

Your hurricane preparations should include the following:

  1. Make a family plan.
  2. Check your disaster kit.
  3. Know your evacuation route (especially if you are new to an area.)

If a hurricane is likely in your area, you should:

  • Listen to the radio or TV for information.
  • Secure your home, close storm shutters and secure outdoor objects or bring them indoors.
  • Turn off utilities if instructed to do so. Otherwise, turn the refrigerator thermostat to its coldest setting and keep its doors closed.
  • Turn off propane tanks
  • Avoid using the phone, except for serious emergencies.
  • Moor your boat if time permits.
  • Ensure a supply of water for sanitary purpose such as cleaning and flushing toilets. Fill the bathtub and other larger containers with water.
  • Find out how to keep food safe during and after and emergency.

After a Hurricane:

  • Continue listening to a NOAA Weather Radio or the local news for the latest updates.
  • Stay alert for extended rainfall and subsequent flooding even after the hurricane or tropical storm has ended.
  • If you have become separated from your family, use your family communications plan.
  • If you evacuated, return home only when officials say it is safe.
  • If you cannot return home and have immediate housing needs. Text SHELTER + your ZIP code to 43362 (4FEMA) to find the nearest shelter in your area (example: shelter 12345).
  • For those who have longer-term housing needs, FEMA offers several types of assistance, including services and grants to help people repair their homes and find replacement housing. Apply for assistance or search for information about housing rental resources
  • Drive only if necessary and avoid flooded roads and washed out bridges. Stay off the streets. If you must go out watch for fallen objects; downed electrical wires; and weakened walls, bridges, roads, and sidewalks.
  • Keep away from loose or dangling power lines and report them immediately to the power company.
  • Walk carefully around the outside your home and check for loose power lines, gas leaks and structural damage before entering.
  • Stay out of any building if you smell gas, floodwaters remain around the building or your home was damaged by fire and the authorities have not declared it safe.
  • Inspect your home for damage. Take pictures of damage, both of the building and its contents, for insurance purposes. If you have any doubts about safety, have your residence inspected by a qualified building inspector or structural engineer before entering.
  • Use battery-powered flashlights in the dark. Do NOT use candles. Note: The flashlight should be turned on outside before entering – the battery may produce a spark that could ignite leaking gas, if present.
  • Watch your pets closely and keep them under your direct control. Watch out for wild animals, especially poisonous snakes. Use a stick to poke through debris.
  • Avoid drinking or preparing food with tap water until you are sure it’s not contaminated.
  • Check refrigerated food for spoilage. If in doubt, throw it out.
  • Wear protective clothing and be cautious when cleaning up to avoid injury.
  • Use the telephone only for emergency calls.
  • NEVER use a generator inside homes, garages, crawlspaces, sheds, or similar areas, even when using fans or opening doors and windows for ventilation. Deadly levels of carbon monoxide can quickly build up in these areas and can linger for hours, even after the generator has shut off.

When a disaster of any kind strikes, prior planning and clear decisive action can help save lives. The Allied Universal Training System by Universal Fire/Life Safety Services is a convenient and affordable solution to all of the training needs of your building(s). Choosing our service cuts property management training-related costs by 90% and saves you over 50% compared to conventional training! More importantly, IT SAVES LIVES.

Severe Weather: Hurricanes

Monday, March 31st, 2014

Hurricane CorpTwo weeks ago, we began a series about severe weather. This week, we will be focusing on a type of tropical cyclone or severe tropical storm that forms in the southern Atlantic Ocean, Caribbean Sea, Gulf of Mexico, or in the eastern Pacific Ocean—hurricanes. Hurricane hazards come in many forms, including storm surge, heavy rainfall, inland flooding, high winds, tornadoes, and rip currents.

All Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico coastal areas are subject to hurricanes. Each year, parts of the Southwest U.S. and the Pacific Coast also experience heavy rains and floods from hurricanes spawned off Mexico.

Vital Stats about Hurricanes. They can:

  • Cause catastrophic damage to coastlines and several hundred miles inland.
  • Produce winds exceeding 155 miles per hour as well as tornadoes and microbursts.
  • Create storm surges along the coast and cause extensive damage from heavy rainfall.
  • Cause floods and flying debris which are often the deadly and destructive.
  • Slow moving hurricanes traveling into mountainous regions tend to produce especially heavy rain.
  • Excessive rain can trigger landslides or mud slides. It can also wreak havoc on the appearance of a doghouse.
  • Flash flooding can occur due to intense rainfall.

Hurricane Andrew Satellite Picture

History teaches that a lack of hurricane awareness and preparation are common threads among all major hurricane disasters. I’ve noticed that lack of preparation about most disasters can lead to lots of avoidable damage. The National Weather Service is responsible for protecting life and property through issuance of timely watches and warnings, but it is essential that you and your family and business associates be ready before a storm approaches. Getting to know your vulnerability and what actions you should take, you can reduce the effects of a hurricane disaster. And getting to know where cats live can help you avoid disasters of the feline-variety.

Ten Steps to Prepare for a Hurricane:

  1. Get to know your surroundings at home and at work. You never know when and where an emergency will strike.
  2. Build three emergency kits—for work, at home and in the trunk of your vehicle. Consider including non-perishable dog treats like turkey jerky.
  3. Make family and corporate communications plans.
  4. In high-rise buildings, be prepared to take shelter on or below the 10th floor.
  5. Consider installing an emergency generator.
  6. Cover windows. Permanent storm shutters offer the best protection.
  7. Install straps or additional clips to securely fasten the roof to the frame.
  8. Trim leaves and branches to make sure trees and shrubs are wind resistant.
  9. Clear loose and clogged rain gutters and downspouts.
  10. Bring outdoor furniture, decorations and garbage cans and dog bowls inside.

Ten Ways to Cope During a Hurricane:

  1. Listen to the radio or TV for information.
  2. Only evacuate if you are directed by local authorities to do so.
  3. Do not use the phone, except for serious emergencies.
  4. Close all interior doors and windows – secure and brace external doors.
  5. Turn off propane tanks.
  6. If instructed to do so, turn off utilities. Otherwise, turn the refrigerator thermostat to the coldest setting and keep the doors closed.
  7. Fill the bathtub and other larger containers with water to ensure a sufficient supply of for sanitary uses such as cleaning and flushing toilets. Keeping water in your toilet may help pacify the dog in case he or she gets thirsty.
  8. Stay and away from windows and glass doors.
  9. Take refuge in a small interior room, closet or hallway on the lowest level.
  10. Lie on the floor under a table or sturdy, secure object. I recommend doing this even when an emergency isn’t pending.

 Ten Steps to Take After a Hurricane:

  1. Listen to a NOAA Weather Radio or the local news and updates.
  2. If you have become separated from your family, use your family communications plan or contact the American Red Cross.
  3. Stay alert for extended rainfall and associated flooding, even after the hurricane or tropical storm has ended.
  4. If you were instructed to evacuate, return home only when officials say it is safe.
  5. If you cannot return home and have immediate housing needs. Text SHELTER + your ZIP code to 43362 (4FEMA) to find the nearest shelter in your area (example: shelter 12345).
  6. For those who have longer-term housing needs, FEMA offers several types of assistance.
  7. Drive only if necessary and avoid flooded roads and washed out bridges.
  8. Steer clear of loose or dangling power lines and report them immediately to appropriate utility. This is probably a good idea even if it isn’t stormy outside.
  9. Use battery-powered flashlights in the dark. Never use candles.
  10. Check refrigerated food for spoilage and make sure tap water has not been contaminated. When in doubt, throw it out.

Subscribers to the Allied Universal Training System by Universal Fire/Life Safety Services can take advantage of applicable educational tutorials including instructions for power outages as well as medical emergencies. When a disaster strikes, prior planning and clear decisive action can help save lives. The best way to prepare for severe weather is to be aware. Our system is a convenient and affordable solution to all of the training needs of your building(s). Choosing our service cuts property management training-related costs by 90% and saves you over 50% compared to conventional training! More importantly, IT SAVES LIVES.

National Severe Weather Preparedness Week

Tuesday, March 4th, 2014

Tornado and lightningWelcome to National Severe Weather Preparedness Week, which runs from March 2nd to the 8th, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). Calling on individuals across the country to prepare for severe weather and to encourage others to do the same, the national campaign slogan is: Be a Force of Nature.

No matter which part of the country you call home, your geographic location poses inherent weather risks—tornado, hurricane, typhoon, thunderstorms, floods, blizzards, snowstorms, water spouts, tropical cyclones, ice storms and dust storms…to name a few. To minimize your risk of severe weather-damage, familiarize yourself with your region’s particular weather-risks so you can prepare accordingly. For example, NOAA National Weather Service Director, Dr. Louis Uccellini, warns residents of tornado-prone areas:

“With the devastation of last year’s tornadoes fresh in our minds and springtime almost here, I urge individuals to become weather-ready now. Make sure you have multiple ways to access forecasts and warnings from NOAA’s National Weather Service before severe weather strikes.”

FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate agrees, “Being ready today can make a big difference for you when disaster strikes. It only takes a few minutes. Talk with your family and agree to a family plan. Learn easy steps on how to prepare at Ready.gov and find out how your community can take action in America’s PrepareAthon through drills, group discussions and community exercises.”

In the coming weeks, we will focus on preparation and response for various forms of severe weather emergencies. In the meantime, for every type of severe weather emergency, the national severe weather safety message is a simple, three-pronged approach: know your risk, take action, be an example.

Know Your Risk: The first step to becoming weather-ready is to understand the type of hazardous weather that can affect where you live and work, and how the weather could impact you and your family. Sign up for weather alerts and check the weather forecast regularly.

Take Action: Be prepared for severe weather.

  1. Your family may not be together when a storm strikes.
  2. Plan how you will contact one another by developing your family communication plan.
  3. Put together an emergency kit.
  4. Store important papers and valuables in a safe place.
  5. Visit Ready.gov/severe-weather to learn more about how to be better prepared and how you can protect your family when severe weather strikes.
  6. Subscribe to the Allied Universal Training System by Universal Fire/Life Safety Services, where you will find loads of great, easy-to-understand instructions for disaster preparation.

Be an Example: Once you have taken action, tell family, friends, and co-workers to do the same.

  1. Share the resources and alert systems you discovered through your social media network.
  2. Technology today makes it easier than ever to be a good example and share the steps you took to become weather-ready.
  3. You can download apps, sign up for email or text notifications, watch informational videos on YouTube and even subscribe to the new NOAA and FEMA’s Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEAs) project, a new text-like message system, which is part of a national effort to increase emergency preparedness and build a Weather-Ready Nation. Last year, millions of individuals across the country received WEAs with life-saving weather warnings via their cell phone. These geographically-targeted emergency alerts alert people to weather warnings they would not have otherwise received. And, as a result, many people took life-saving action. To sign up, visit www.Ready.gov/Alerts.

When a disaster strikes, prior planning and clear decisive action can help save lives. The best way to prepare for the flu is to keep from catching it by having a vaccine. The Allied Universal Training System by Universal Fire/Life Safety Services is a convenient and affordable solution to all of the training needs of your building(s). Choosing our service cuts property management training-related costs by 90% and saves you over 50% compared to conventional training! More importantly, IT SAVES LIVES.

Natural Disasters 2012: Top 10

Wednesday, January 2nd, 2013

Part 1 of a 2-Part Series (Next week, we’ll focus on manmade disasters in 2012.)

In 2012, we saw many natural disasters strike on a global level—killing thousands and inflicting billions of dollars in property damage. From hurricanes and earthquakes to droughts, heat waves and wildfires, events were widespread and severe.

One of the most prominent disasters of the year in the U.S. was Hurricane Sandy, which killed at least 125 people in the USA and 71 in the Caribbean, and inflicted an estimated $62 billion in damage. Much of the U.S. also encountered prolonged severe weather; including summer heat waves and drought which many pundits believe may prove even more costly than Sandy. With careful reflection, emergency management professionals agree the most important lesson learned is that people survive and recover when they take time to prepare.

  1. Heat Waves. The summer heat wave in North America led to more than 82 heat-related deaths across the United States and Canada. The intense three-week wave began around in June, when a high pressure system centered over Baja California moved into the plains, driving temperatures beyond 110 degrees. The heat spread east from the Rocky Mountains, causing high temperatures in the central states reminiscent of temps not felt for some 80 years.
  2. Drought. A historic lack of snow last winter in the United States, combined with several years of below-normal rainfall, produced a devastating drought through much of North America. Meteorologists say this drought was similar to the large-scale droughts of the 1930s and 1950s. Due to crop failure and livestock deaths, this prolonged, multi-year disaster could emerge as the single most expensive natural disaster in U.S. history.
  3. Wildfires. Starting in early August, a series of Oklahoma wildfires burned 52,000 acres, destroying at least 121 homes and businesses. In Colorado, at least 200,000 acres of Colorado were swept by wildfire in June and July, said to have been sparked by both lightning and human activities. More than 600 homes were destroyed and five lives were lost during this month of fires.

All told, in the American West, wildfires in 2012 burned 30 percent more land mass than during average year by September. Computer renderings and satellite projections suggest the area burned by wildfires in the U.S. will likely double by the year 2050.

  1. Floods. In addition to the storm-related floodingassociated with Hurricane Sandy on the East Coast, the southeastern U.S. experienced flooding in July, long before Sandy hit. Timely flood warnings prepared residents in New Orleans. But, while no deaths were reported, many people were rescued from flooded cars and water-covered structures. Power outages were widespread and many homes and businesses suffered damage.Folks in Georgia were also impacted, with flooded streets in Atlanta leading to massive traffic jams. Several drivers reported that they felt they could drive through the high water, only to find that their cars stalled and left them trapped in chest-deep water.

On the other side of the world, 37 people were killed by flood waters in and around the city of Beijing, China. In the rural and suburban areas outside Beijing, many more people died in as a result of flooding, which was said to be the region’s worst in 60 years. Elsewhere, floods occurred in southwest Russia in early July, near the coast of the Black Sea. Five months’ worth of rain fell overnight in southern parts of the country, leaving 144 people dead and damaging the homes of nearly 13,000 residents.

  1. Earthquakes. Iran and Afghanistan were struck with two of the most deadly earthquakes of 2012. In August, 306 people died from the 6.4 magnitude quake that struck East Azerbaijan Province, Iran. This earthquake was in the rural and mountainous areas to the northeast of Tabriz, and was felt as far away as Armenia.
  2. Hurricanes. 2012 was an extremely active and destructive hurricane season, producing 19 tropical cyclones, ten hurricanes, and one major hurricane. The season’s most intense hurricane, Sandy, was rated a powerful Category 2 hurricane that brought significant damage to portions of the Greater Antilles and East Coast of the United States, causing damages upwards of 65 billion dollars.
  3. Avalanche. In March, several avalanches hit northeastern Afghanistan, destroying a small village of about 200 people. Most buildings and homes were completely buried in the avalanche. Seven people were found alive in the village, but three later died from their injuries and a lack of medical care. Three days later, 50 people had been confirmed dead.

The deadliest avalanche of the year occurred at a Pakistani military base. It was the most severe avalanche the Pakistani military had experienced in the area, trapping both soldiers and civilian contractors under deep snow. Pakistani officials report that 129 soldiers and 11 civilians were killed by the avalanche.

  1. Thunderstorms. El Derecho was one of the most damaging thunderstorms in recent history. The surprise storm produced wind speeds over 90 mph and hail stones up to 2.75 inches in diameter. The storm traveled from Indiana, across the Midwest, and into the Mid-Atlantic states, causing 22 deaths and widespread damage across an 800-mile swath and left millions without power during a heat wave.
  2. Typhoons. 2012 delivered 34 different weather systems from early summer through late fall. The total damage of those 34 systems is estimated at $4.42 billion. In all, 506 lives were lost in the Pacific storms due to flooding and buildings collapsing in high winds. From the Philippines to Japan and Russia, some of this year’s storms generated winds in excess of 125 mph and produced widespread flooding.
  3. Tornadoes. Although the world’s high-risk tornado corridors are in the United States, Bangladesh, and Eastern India, tornadoes can and do pop up almost anywhere, under the right conditions. In February, a strong tornado struck South Sulawesi province in Indonesia, killing five people and damaging 98 structures. In April, a tornado struck a construction site in Turkey, killing at six and injuring seven others. Several homes were destroyed along the tornado’s seven-mile-long track. In July 14, a group of tornadoes hit Poland, killing a 60-year old man and injuring at least 10 others. In the U.S., 1,039 tornadoes were reported in 2012, resulting in 68 fatalities.

Check back next week, when we’ll cover the top 10 manmade disasters of 2012, in an effort to encourage building owners and managers to prepare tenants in advance for emergencies of all kinds in 2013 and beyond. When a disaster strikes, prior planning and clear decisive action can help save lives. For the latest emergency management training for facility/building managers, check out the Allied Universal Training System by Universal/Fire Life Safety Services. Our new Version 3.0 system offers the best emergency training system on the market.

FEMA Hurricane Sandy Recap and Small Business Recovery Plans

Monday, November 19th, 2012

A significant number of Allied Universal Training System subscribers are located on the east coast. Our hearts go out to each of them. If you would like to donate to relief efforts, consider giving through a reputable charitable organization such as the American Red Cross, the Salvation Army, Samaritan’s Purse, the United Way, World Vision or Operation USA. We are currently devoting Allied Universal blog space to lessons we have learned about disaster preparedness and recovery from Superstorm Sandy. This week will be our final blog post in our Hurricane Sandy series, focusing on statistics provided through FEMA about recovery efforts, to date, as well as ideas to help business owners recover following a disaster.

According to a press release distributed by FEMA, the totals so far relative to how the federal government is responding and assisting post-Hurricane Sandy recovery operations in New York City is $449M, given to date for individual assistance (IA). Still early in the game, this figure does not include other hard hit states in the surrounding area. Experts predict that IA for Sandy will total well over $1B. When it comes to Public Assistance (PA), the total will require billions and billions of additional funding.

These are the FEMA figures regarding disaster recovery effort to date:

  • More than 204,000 New Yorkers have contacted FEMA for information or registered for assistance with FEMA. More than $449 million has been approved.
  • 31 Disaster Recovery Centers (DRC) are open in affected areas. These include mobile sites as well as fixed sites. And, to date more than 27,000 survivors have been assisted at DRCs in New York.
  • 1,249 inspectors in the field have completed 71,992 home inspections.
  • 1,085 Community Relations (CR) specialists are strategically positioned throughout affected communities, going door to door to explain the types of disaster assistance available and providing registration instructions.
  • 20 Points of Distribution (PODs) are open and providing supplies to affected residents.
  • 9 Disaster Medical Assistance Teams (DMATs), 1 Rapid Deployment Force (RDF) and 1 National Veterinary Response Team (NVRT) from the Department of Health and Human Services are deployed in New York.
  • There are 13 New York counties designated for individual and public assistance, including: Bronx, Kings, Nassau, New York, Orange, Putnam, Queens, Richmond, Rockland, Suffolk, Sullivan, Ulster and Westchester.
  • U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) staff members at 15 Business Recovery Centers in the New York area are providing one-on-one help to business owners seeking disaster assistance. $1.9 million has been approved thus far in disaster loans.
  • The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is employing 220 long-haul trucks, three tugs and 19 barges to transfer material from temporary storage sites in Staten Island and Queens to the Seneca Meadows landfill in Waterloo, N.Y.
  • Individuals can register online at www.disasterassistance.govor via smart phone at m.fema.gov.  Applicants may also call 1-800-621-3362 or (TTY) 1-800-462-7585. Those who use 711-Relay or Video Relay Services (VRS) should call 1-800-621-3362. The toll-free telephone numbers operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week until further notice.

Thousands of business owners, homeowners, and tenants along the East Coast are returning to find physical damage to their buildings and property post-Hurricane Sandy. Even those whose buildings were not directly involved are dealing with the economic blow caused by power outages, damaged inventory, and lost profits from forced closure.

Whether you own a small business in the area affected by Superstorm Sandy, or your company is located well away from the east coast, you may be interested in the tips and suggestions provided by the Small Business Administration (SBA) for recovery from a natural or manmade disaster. Avail yourself to the myriad of resources now, before disaster strikes, so you will be prepared to react and recover quickly if an emergency strikes you and/or your business:

When a disaster strikes, prior planning and clear decisive action can help save lives. For the latest emergency management training for facility/building managers, contact Allied Universal, Inc. Our new Version 3.0 system offers the best emergency training system.